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We sit down with creative director behind Korea’s very own answer to the botheration that is deadstock. Our interview with the exceptional Sujin Kim, Senior Designer at RE;CODE
Redefining textiles with style

What does working with RE;CODE mean to you?

RE;CODE is an everyday challenge! Re-designing clothes with already existing clothes, is an exciting but complicate process. It does bring a lot of variables, you have to highlight a hidden creativity from the inside of the clothes, every moment is a challenge, every new piece is a challenge in itself.
I am a designer since over ten years, I have been working for RE;CODE since four years, it’s such a great experience! Previously, I had worked for a casual men’s brand, the designing process was much more conventional.

Can you tell us about how RE;CODE gives back to the environment?

RE;CODE is a fashion brand based on the concept of up-cycling. By using clothes or fabrics intended to be discarded, we want to prevent the environment from the pollution, caused either by the products breakdown or the over production of them.
RE;CODE is introducing in Korea the idea of slow fashion through shooting campaign as well as the product itself, our aim is to raise the concerned about the environment. In addition, RE;CODE is also alerting the general public about environmental issues by a pop-up campaign called RE;table, where people can easily encounter simple way to do up-cycling, thus encouraging them to that kind of activities in a daily life; in the goal to protect and save our planet.

In what ways are you reinterpreting design?

In general, rather than the fabric, the design starts with the dead stock of clothes that we have, that we are collecting from other brands. We start with the process of dismantling the existing clothes, to discover the hidden details, and provide us some ideas – the wick in the jacket, the lining of the pants, the low suture line when the denim is dismantled, from all of this come the beauty. I try to design the new line with the existing clothes essence, and keep the story of the previous clothes and details as much as possible. This is the unique beauty of RE;CODE, when the details of the original clothes are newly design, such a men’s jacket turned into a women’s blouse or a sports jumper becoming a feminine skirt, is a great feature of RE;CODE’s design.

RE;CODE offers a platform for exposure for emerging designers through collaborative design and inclusion in RE;CODE ‘s collection. What is it like sharing the brand and working with emerging designers and craftspeople? How does this inform your process?

Collaborating with emerging designer is the task of RE;CODE’lab to share the environmental issues and social values with them. The process of redirecting the used clothing to a new life, does affects the designer work, by knowing and practicing the problems (wasting, pollution) that fashion industry is facing, the designers are experiencing new ways of creation. Those works bring more to the costumers rather than pure creation; it’s also a way to reach each time more and more people.
Moreover RE;CODE is placing the artisans whom made the clothes in the heart of the process, because if good-quality artisans are not preserved they going to disappear. It’s a reality that good sewing techniques are disappearing because there is no young person to learn those skills positively; to know the values of sewing. RE;CODE invest more and more into sewing training for the internal designers and also carry out sewing training for people who are interesting in. RE;CODE aim is to inform young people in the long term that it’s not a difficult things to do and it’s a cool technology. These activities are announced by our SNS and website homepage. Finally we also edited two books about our brand, which explain all about our brand process and projects, the second edition had been release last December.

What is most challenging about a shared design process? What is most rewarding?

I mentioned above, making new garment with existing clothes is a big challenge; because those clothes are not chosen one by the consumer. The designer does the same role as a doctor who revives the clothes, so as not to be rejected by the consumer again.
It also a challenge for the designers to find the best balance between the trends and keep the proper essence of RE;CODE design, every season it’s a proper new mix and balance to find.
The most rewarding seems to be when I saw a nice person dressed in my clothes in a nicely and cool way. Wear our clothes is sharing the values beyond it, it’s the ‘ACT’ of wearing, no something to just cover yourself.

How are emerging designers selected to collaborate?

We select the designer among the newly emerging designer, and mainly those who express the concept of combination and disassembling. Moreover, we add the designer who fit with our visual feel are included to collaborate with us.
It’s given them the challenge and opportunity, to experience our process and feel the environmental problems in fashion industry.
Our most noticeable collaboration, were with Henrik Vibskov for 15FW and SS16 and the fashion brand and activist – from Paris – Andrea Crews AW17. We wish to raise a community in order to raise the awareness of environmental issues. We will keep on working with people who want to make a positive impact on our earth by fashion, culture without border of any kind.

You get to work with a lot of diverse material such as tents and car air bags. What have been some of the most interesting materials to create with?

The most interesting materials as a designer are the airbag. The airbags are not easily visible; they are fascinated by the beauty of industrial material, when you first saw them (unless you are in an accident…). They have a charm that you cannot find in other materials, such as number of stitches on the white background, such a modern and interesting material!! Previously, it was used as a patch for clothes, but as it is hard it’s coated, it is now used as an accessory material.

What innovative materials of material sources are you looking into next?

Now we are preparing the 18SS season. We will study more intensively the line that redecorated women’s clothes with men’s suit that is the roots of RE;CODE since our launching. Black or navy men’s suit can be made from different materials that cannot be seeing in high quality even in the high of women pret-a-porter. Also, since the bestselling line in RE;CODE, is the line that uses the suit, we plan to keep the line material from the archive line, regardless the season.

How has working with RE;CODE changed you individually as designers?

As a designer, there is a lot of opportunities to work within RE;CODE. We had made clothes for dancers, for asylum seekers and collaborated with single mother or North Koreans defectors. We are able to accommodate our thoughts by forming a consensus with various people while carrying our various projects.
In the past, I stayed only in the limited area of fashion industry, it wasn’t as exciting as RE;CODE! Now I much more open and I am naturally going to some global issues such as refugee’s crisis in middle east and global environmental issues. It really changed my vision of the world!

You work with the mentally handicapped and Goodwill – can you tell us more about the work you are doing with them and the deconstruction process of salvaged materials?

Adding to the designing process there is a lot of garments to disassembly or work using prepared auxiliary material. These things are carried out through cooperation with the socially weak. The intellectual disabilities can assume the skill of disassembling through a little training, with the support of manager’s field. However, complicated work is carried out with refugees or socially disadvantage.

Each design is produced in very limited numbers – how does that influence the design process?

RE;CODE design can be made as many as the number available clothes that we have in dead stock. There are variable that arise during the garment production. For example, when one piece of clothing is required, but the size in stock is small so two pieces of clothing are included. Usually we are producing between one and eight pieces for each garment, in the case of RE;NANO it can goes up until 20 pieces, but still our collection are very very limited.

What inspired the Re;nano line?

After we made the main collection, we were worried about what part of the clothes left behind, so we imagine a line which can be utilized the left part or fabrics. Our aim is efficient design should avoid any kind of wasting. In practice, RE;NANO is made from small pieces left from the clothes used for the main line such as buttons, tapes, labels, etc… Moreover, as it’s our entrance price line, it’s easier for many people to share and experience RE;CODE by buying a RE;nano products rather than the main collection.

What can we look forward to seeing for FW17?? Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the upcoming line?

For the FW17 we collaborate with various designers. It will be a season where you can see the various ways in which dead stock clothes are re-designed. We collaborated with Korean up coming designer as BOURIE, WORK WORK, BMUETTE, which are building a global recognition and the establish designer ANDREA CREWS from Paris.

RE;CODE has a great love and respect for story – where the material came from, who had it before being upcycled, and sharing these stories on the clothing labels, which we love. Talk to us about RE;Collection. What has your experience been like with such a personalized up-cycling service? What are some memorable stories?

RE;COLLECTION is the last project launched last December, it’s began with the desire and philosophy of RE;CODE could save the individuality and history of clothes. The purpose is taking out of our closet sleeping garments instead of buying new one. If you have clothes that you want to repair, we process by a consultation with the designers to select and create together a new design, and re-making it by the craftsmen. Along the finished clothes, we make a letter with the story of the new garments and new labels; containing the personal information. The most memorable story that I remember as a designer is a jacket that a dad used to customize turned into his daughter’s jacket, when he offered it to his daughter she was crying so much, it was such a special moment. RE;COLLECTION is about that, clothe are happy memories and about transmission!